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Christopher West Writes on Contraception

Christopher West Writes on Contraception

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Contraception and Cultural Chaos — Part 1 of 6
By Christopher West This July 25th marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most controversial papaldocuments in history: Paul VI's encyclical
Humanae Vitae
which reaffirmed the traditionalChristian teaching on the immorality of contraception. If you have wrestled with thisteaching, believe me, I can relate. Years ago I almost left the Church over it. Forty yearsof perspective provide an opportunity to take another look. That's what I'll be doing in[the next] several columns. You may have noticed above that I said "traditional Christian teaching" on contraception.Only in the last 50-70 years has this been viewed primarily as a "Catholic" issue. Until1930, all Christian bodies stood together in their condemnation of any attempt tosterilize the marital act. That year, the Anglican Church broke with more than nineteenhundred years of uninterrupted Christian teaching. When the pill debuted in the early1960's, the Catholic Church alone was retaining what in 30 short years had come to beseen as an archaic, even absurd position.One way to begin understanding the Church's stance is by "judging the tree by its fruit." This is what first made me realize that contraception was a much more important issuethan I had realized.When Margaret Sanger and her followers started pushing contraception in the early1900's, wise men and women — and certainly not just Catholics — predicted thatsevering sex from procreation would eventually lead to sexual and societal chaos. Today's culture of adultery, divorce, premarital sex, STD's, out-of-wedlock births,abortion, fatherless children, homosexuality, poverty, crime, drugs, and violence was allforeseen.What's the connection with contraception? While today's societal chaos is certainlycomplex, the following demonstrates the "inner logic" of contraception's contribution.People are often tempted to do things they shouldn't do. Deterrents within nature itself and within society help to curb these temptations and maintain order. For example, whatwould happen to the crime rate in a given society if jail terms suddenly ceased?Apply the same logic to sex. People throughout history have been tempted to commitadultery. It's nothing new. However, one of the main deterrents from succumbing to thetemptation has been the fear of pregnancy. What would happen if this natural deterrentwere taken away? As history demonstrates, rates of adultery would skyrocket. What'sone of the main causes of divorce? Adultery. Apply the same logic to pre-marital sex.Such behavior has, indeed, skyrocketed. Premarital sex, as a kind of "adultery inadvance," is also a prime indicator of future marital breakdown.It gets worse. Since no method of contraception is 100% effective, an increase inadultery and pre-marital sex will inevitably lead to an increase in "unwantedpregnancies." What's next? So many people think contraception is the solution to theabortion problem. Take a deeper look and you'll see that that's like throwing gasoline ona fire to try to put it out. In the final analysis, there is only one reason we have abortion— because men and women are having sex without being "open to life." If this mentalityis at the root of abortion, contraception does nothing but foster and afford this mentality.
 
Not everyone will resort to abortion of course. Some will choose adoption. Other mothers(most) will raise these children by themselves. Hence the number of children who growup without a father (which has already been increased by the rise in divorce) will becompounded. And a culture of "fatherless" children inevitably becomes a culture of poverty, crime, drugs, and violence. All of these social ills compound exponentially fromgeneration to generation since "fatherless" children are also much more likely to haveout-of-wedlock births and, if they marry at all, divorce.What about homosexuality? Our culture is impotent to resist the "gay agenda" becausewe have already accepted its basic premise with contraception — the reduction of sex tothe exchange of pleasure. When openness to life is no longer an intrinsic part of thesexual equation, why does sexual behavior have to be with the opposite sex?Forty years after the release of 
Humanae Vitae
, many people are beginning to see thatthe Church might not be crazy after all.
Does Contraception Foster Love? — Part 2 of 6
By Christopher WestWe continue a series of reflections on the issue of contraception in light of the 40thanniversary of [1]
Humanae Vitae
.When Pope Paul VI issued this document on July 25, 1968, it fell like a bomb. Manypeople wished the issue would just go away. It hasn't. And it won't. In fact, it can't "goaway." This encyclical takes us to the very foundations of human life.In the [2] last column we looked at how contraception has played a key role in thecultural chaos in which we're now immersed. Here we'll look briefly at what seems to beat the heart of the matter — love. It all comes down to this: What is love? Does the mereexchange of sexual pleasure offer any surety of love? Our culture is sated with sexualindulgence but remains starved for love. Perhaps contraception has had something to dowith this sad state of affairs.It seems what we often call "love," when submitted to honest examination, amounts tolittle more than mutual using for pleasure. In the language of John Paul II, the opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is using another person as a means to an end. Iknow this is a cliche, but why do so many wives claim "headache" when their husbandswant sex? Might they feel used rather than loved? The Catholic teaching on sex is an invitation to embrace the love that really correspondsto the deepest desires of the human heart. That is a demanding love, to be sure. Shouldwe expect it to be otherwise as followers of Christ? "Love one another," Jesus says, "as Ihave loved you" (Jn 15:12). This means it's going to hurt. It's going to demand sacrifice.St. Paul says it plainly: husbands are to love their wives "as Christ loved the church" (Eph5:25). Then he concludes this marvelous passage with the most exalted presentation of sexual love in all of human history: "''or this reason a man shall leave his father andmother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a greatmystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church" (Eph 5:21-32). The Church, so often accused of devaluing sex, ascribes to sexual love the highest
 
possible value — it is meant to be a merging of the human and the divine. Anything less,the Church proposes, is a counterfeit for the love we yearn for at the deepest level of ourbeings. Sexual love is meant to image the mysterious and eternal "exchange of love"within the Holy Trinity. In the normal course of events, the mutual exchange of husbandand wife leads to a "third" — a new human life conceived through the work of the HolySpirit, "the Lord, the Giver of life."Contracepted intercourse marks a determined "closing off" of the sexual act to the HolySpirit, to the very life and love of God. In short, whether they realize this or not,contracepting couples are saying, "We prefer the momentary pleasure of sterilized sexover the opportunity of participating in the eternal love of the Trinity." To which I respond…bad choice! But do you think if couples really knew they were saying this, that theywould continue to do so? "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk23:34).Most couples simply have no idea what they're getting themselves into when theysterilize their sexual acts. So none of this is about assigning culpability. If I drink a cup of poison — but don't know it's poison — I haven't committed suicide; I'm not culpable formy own death. But it will still kill me, because whether I think it's poison or not has nobearing whatsoever on whether it is poison or not. Furthermore, if you know it's poisonand I don't, what would be the loving thing to do if you saw me reaching out to drink it? The Church is not trying to impose her morality on us. Like any loving mother, she istrying to prevent her children from unwittingly ingesting a very dangerous "poison tolove." As the 40th anniversary of 
Humanae Vitae
approaches, let us thank Pope Paul VIfor loving us so much.
Contraception and the Language of the Body — Part 3 of 6
By Christopher WestWe continue our series commemorating the 40th anniversary of 
Humanae Vitae
. PopePaul VI released this oh-so-controversial encyclical on July 25, 1968, re-affirming theconstant teaching of the Church on the immorality of contraception. To this day itremains a "thorn in the side" of many. It was once a thorn in my side as well. John PaulII's "theology of the body" helped remove that thorn and show me the glorious fragranceof the rose.Last time we observed that contracepted intercourse marks a determined "closing off" of the sexual act to the Holy Spirit, to the "Lord and Giver of Life." In this way, as John PaulII expressed it, contraception falsifies "the language of the body."We all know that the body has a "language." A wave of the hand says "hello" or"goodbye." A shrug of the shoulders says, "I don't know." A raised fist expresses anger.What is sexual intercourse meant to express? What is its true language, its truemeaning?According to Scripture, the sexual embrace is meant to express divine love. Preciselyhere, in the consummation of their sacrament, spouses are meant to participate in the"great mystery" of divine love. Whether spouses realize this or not, this is thesacramental power of their love. It's meant to be an image and a real participation inChrist's love for the Church (see Eph 5:31-32).

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